Address to Faculty and Students at Seton Hall University
[ Page 3 of 3 ]
None of these considerations, of course, frees us from the responsibility to proceed carefully. The moral and human implications of war - any war - are very grave. No reasonable effort should be spared in the quest for a peaceful solution. That is why, despite the use of American hostages as human shields, despite the outrages against our embassy, despite Iraq's continued barbarism in Kuwait, we have refrained from military action against Saddam Hussein.
But even as we exercise patience and restraint, we must also be alert to 'the moral costs of such a course. Consider, for example, the fate of the people of Kuwait. With every day that passes, their plight grows more desperate. Being patient with Iraq allows Saddam Hussein to prolong their agony. Is this a moral course of action?
Or consider the fate of American military personnel in Saudi Arabia. The longer we refrain from action against Iraq, the more time Saddam Hussein has to tighten his grip on Kuwait, and the harder it may be to break that grip, if and when war comes. Does patience today risk greater American casualties tomorrow? And if so, is this a moral course of action?
Or consider Iraq's drive for nuclear weapons. As President Bush told I American troops in Saudi Arabia during Thanksgiving, "Each day that passes brings Saddam one day closer to realizing his goal of a nuclear weapons arsenal. . . . And we do know this for sure: He has never possessed a weapon that he didn't use." Will continued patience with Iraq help make the world vulnerable to nuclear blackmail by Saddam Hussein? And if so, is this a moral course of action?
Please don't misunderstand me. I believe that every reasonable effort must be made to resolve this crisis peacefully. I also think that there must be limits to our patience. And those limits are reached when our restraint threatens to undermine other, equally moral goals. These goals, as I said, include ending Kuwait's agony as soon as possible; minimizing American casualties in the event of war; and preventing Saddam Hussein from adding nuclear weapons to his already formidable arsenal of mass destruction. It is in order to prevent Saddam Hussein from thwarting these goals that the U.N. Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution today endorsing the use of force against Iraq if Saddam does not withdraw his forces from Kuwait.
The challenge the civilized world faces today is very grave. But it is not unprecedented. In 1936, the world faced a rather similar challenge when Adolf Hitler, who had only recently come to power, moved German troops into the Rhineland, in open defiance - of the treaties of Versailles and Locarno. British and French leaders faced a major dilemma. To confront Hitler militarily could mean war. Not to confront him meant acquiescing in a cynical breach of international law. What to do?
But while British and French leaders vacillated between their hopes and their fears, one voice rang out loud and clear. On March 13, 1936, Winston Churchill called on the League of Nations to take tough action against German aggression. His words deserve to be quoted at some length:
Tragically, most leaders did not see the stakes as clearly as Churchill did. They did not force the issue to a head in the League of Nations. Instead, they acquiesced in Hitler's aggression, When, many years later, Churchill called World War II the "unnecessary war," it was the failure of British and French statesmanship during the Rhineland crisis that he had in mind.
Today, the U.N. Security Council stands poised at an historic juncture not unlike that faced by the League of Nations in 1936. We are hopeful indeed, we are confident - that it will not fail the test. Some will thoughtlessly say that a vote for today's U.N. resolution is a vote for war, We reject this idea. Saddam has shown that he understands no language other than the language of force. Today's U.N. resolution is our last and best hope for peace - for a genuine peace, not the false peace that is only a prelude to another "unnecessary, war."
Thank you, and God bless you.
[ Page 3 of 3 ]